3 July 1998

Minister backs live export alternatives

INSTEAD of putting their money into the Farmers Ferry to help live exports, farmers would do better to invest it in marketing groups or processing plants to add value to their stock in this country and export carcasses or further processed products, said junior farm minister Elliot Morley on a visit to Cornwall this week.

"Government preference is for meat exports rather than live animals. We think it retains more of the added value in this country," he said.

Mr Morley does not accept that exporting live animals effectively introduces extra buyers into the UK market. He believes farmers can strengthen their bargaining position by working in groups and developing brands. For example, he discussed with farmers the possibility of a scheme to promote Bodmin Plant as a specialist product.

He confirmed that proposals for new veterinary inspection arrangements for live export consignments would be issued in July. The vets will be employed by and paid by MAFF – not by the exporters as at present. And MAFF will set the standards which exporters will have to meet.

During his visit to the south-west, Mr Morley was also told by members of the Cornwall Comm-oners Associations that the ongoing financial hammering being sustained by the farming community will mean a grave shortage of farmers own capital for investment in the diversification ideas that are being put forward for the Bodmin Moor projects.

The Bodmin Moor project has been set up to explore ways in which, with the help of grants and incentive payments, the environment and the rural economy can benefit from shifting public support cash away from production to other targets.

Mr Morley firmly believed it was possible to achieve that. A consultation period on the project ended recently and a detailed scheme is to be drawn up in time for applications early in 1999. Public funds will come partly from the Objective 5b Scheme and partly from the Countryside Steward-ship Scheme which will have new options added.